Brittany Janay shares her personal reflections on productivity, work, and worth. She offers a delineation between who we we and what we do as model of self-love and disruption of internalized colonialism, capitalism, and anti-Blackness. Brittany draws from the wisdom of ancestors Audre Lorde and Lucille Clifton, and ends with an affirmation reminding us that we are not our work, we are more that what we “do” … and our work is not indicative of our worth.
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Brittany: This is Liberated Love Notes, a podcast on the Living Corporate network, hosted by yours truly, Brittany Janay, creator of Liberated Love Notes: Critical Self-Reflection and Affirmations for the Culture. You already know Liberated Love Notes is your source for weekly doses of self-reflection, affirmation, and re-imagining for us by us. So I came across this meme on Instagram a few days ago that really hit, really, really hit. I’ve shared with y’all before, in the intro, that over the last couple of months I’ve really been prioritizing the intra-personal work, those internalized narratives, forms of oppression and dehumanization that legit live in me, sometimes unbeknownst to me, until I really do the work or pause and then reflect and sit with it. Anyways, this meme came up and it hit. So, it reads, “Internalized capitalism looks like,” and it lists a few behaviors, y’all, and I’m going to read these off. “Internalized capitalism looks like feeling guilty for resting. It looks like your self-worth is largely based on doing well in your career. It looks like placing productivity before health. It looks like believing hard work equals happiness. It looks like feeling lazy, even when you’re experiencing pain, trauma, or adversity. It looks like using busyness as a way to avoid your needs.” Yes. And so it hit, because I saw myself in not just one but several of these. I can absolutely recall times where, largely, I saw my self-worth driven by or influenced by my career trajectory. What I was doing, how I was making gains. That’s what I was or I had tied or connected my self-worth to. I absolutely can recall being in situations where I used busyness or staying busy as a defense mechanism. Some might even call it a trauma response. I have, and still do sometimes, find myself feeling bad for being ‘lazy’, and I put lazy in quotes, even when the moment calls for rest. And so I read this gem of a post and sat with it, because it gets at, again, that internal self-abolition work that I think is critically important as well. Well, at least I know I strive to show up as my most liberated self. It also made me think about the work of Tricia Hersey, otherwise known as the Nat Bishop on Instagram, over at the Nat Ministry, and Trisha Hersey for years, in her work, has been making the connection between grind, culture, colonialism, white supremacy, specifically calling for rest as a form of resistance. She echoes the work of our ancestor, Audre Lorde, who shares that “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” All the day, y’all, it just really got me to thinking. I was even affirming, as I have really been, trying to be more intentional about actively disrupting the lie of anti-Blackness and colonialism that would suggest that my Black body, that our Black bodies, primary function is to do, that our primary function of being here is to be productive, to be a tool for production. Not just be, but to do. So much so. How many of you can relate to feeling badly for resting, for pausing at the end of a day or a week? Sometimes I’ll find myself lamenting about what I didn’t accomplish or get done versus basking in the gratitude and blessing of all I was able to do, or even more that, simply, I woke up that morning, that week, that I am alive and well. Being. I think about how, who we are. I think about how who we are is almost always inextricably bounded with what we do. So much so that when you meet folks, and now, obviously this was before, pre-pandemic, but in social and networking capacities. That’s almost always what people asked first. “What’s she do?” Or, if you’re speaking to introduce yourself, to share who you are, to share who we are, how many times have we led with our jobs? What we do, our work. And this stuff starts young. I was reading an article that talks about how early we internalize and even pass down to our children that identity and worth are interlocked with career aspirations, making a living. Just think about the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And how that being is often qualified with a role or some form of productivity. Doing all of this brings me, all of this reflection brings me, to this week’s Liberated Love Note, an affirmation I actually wrote for myself as a reminder that I am more than what I do. I am more than my job. I am more than my business. That who I am is neither limited to, nor contingent on, how I can produce for others. That my worth and validation is not tied up in my work. Can we do purposeful work and that not be all that we are? I would say yes. Can we do work that is connected to our identity and passions? Work that is deeply personal and still create healthy boundaries? I would say absolutely. I would even venture to say that it is absolutely necessary. And so I’ll speak from experience as a Black woman working in the equity, justice, inclusion space. Part of this delineation of what I do from who I am is in service of my own self-concept. I remember finding myself in situations where I was perhaps internalizing messages or narratives related to my effectiveness in this work based on hella structural things, y’all. And so, just think global pandemic 2020, Black folks are getting killed and arrested on camera, on top of being brutalized by our criminal justice healthcare systems. Oh, also being harmed by corporate America, and here I am working in the capacity of diversity, pushing diversity training. It just, at some point, didn’t feel urgent enough. I started thinking to myself,
“Okay, what in the world? Is this work a lie? Am I ineffective? Am I doing this work in a way that is not effective or impactful as it could be? Does that make me ineffective? [?] that impactful? What else do I need to be doing more of? I only feel worthy or validated when someone or others deem it so.” Oh, these are the lies. All these are the lies that I caught myself telling myself. These are the lies we tell ourselves. I might assume that we’ve all been there, but simply, my love note to self, and certainly you all, is this. I am not my work. Go ahead and say it. I am not my work. My work is not my worth. I am not my work. My work is not my work. In fact, and we affirmed this last week, in fact, I am inherently worthy. There are no prerequisites. I am not my work. My work is not my worth. In fact, I am inherently worthy. There are no prerequisites. And even though I am engaging in good work, purposeful work, personal work, impactful work, this work is not all I am. It is not who I am. It is what I do. I don’t know about y’all, but I experience some freedom in that clarity. I experience freedom in that clarity, knowing that I am more than what I do. I am more than what I do. I will even offer as an exercise this week, y’all, I might ask you to engage in an exercise this week. Literally complete the phrase “I am” and list out those things that make you who you are aside from what you do. If you had to answer the question, “Who are you?” and not even mention what you do, your job, what might that sound like? There is a quote that I sit with often, I recite often, that I share often, because it resonates with me so much, and it’s by Lucille Clifton, Black woman, poet. She shares, “In the bigger scheme of things, the universe is not asking us to do something. The universe is asking us to be something, and that’s a whole different thing.” I probably shared that before, but there’s something about it that that hits, y’all. In the bigger scheme of things, the universe is not asking us to do something. The universe is asking us to be something. And that’s a whole different thing. Who you be? Who you be is way more than what you do. Who you be is way more than what you do. I promise. All right. That’s all I got for you. Wishing you a purposeful week that is one of clarity, that’s one of my words from the top of the year, a purposeful week, that is one of clarity, and, my other word, y’all, “ease.” I’ll catch you next time.